Joe Laliberte: Obama is president – it’s time to listen to him

He was talking to us.

He was talking to the senior contemplating a career in the Foreign Service and the freshman wondering if he has what it takes to become a teacher in a low-income neighborhood. He was talking to the sophomore who volunteered at a homeless shelter in the midst of tough times. He was talking to the junior who was opening her mind while studying abroad.

During his inaugural address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama was talking to a new generation that was scattered amid the two million people on the Mall and around the nation. Standing in the bitter cold, many of us had the privilege to hear the message radiating from our new government: It’s our time.

Obama’s inauguration marked a departure from the politics of our parents’ generation. The types of politics that drove wedges rather than solved problems have no place in the current state of our union. What we need are not just people who talk about answers, but people with the courage to actually stand up and answer a call for service and responsibility to our country.

President Obama was talking to a new generation on Tuesday. Speaking of our armed services he said, “We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.”

The privilege to hold an American passport should not give anyone the notion that we’ll leave it to government to solve our problems. We are in the midst of two wars and a broken economy. While all are created equal, a vast number of citizens do not have an equal opportunity. Currently, 13 million children are living in poverty and only half of those will graduate high school. Nearly 2.4 million have lost their homes due to foreclosure since 2006.

As these problems have loomed large, GW students have answered the call to service. GW is ranked higher than any other school in the number of students we send to the Peace Corps, with nearly 1,000 GW alumni lending their heart to public service abroad. Last year, Teach for America was GW’s No. 1 employer.

But we can do even better.

In 2005, GW announced that it has been selected by the Partnership for Public Service to participate as a pilot school in the Call to Serve Campaign. This campaign, according to GW, is an initiative designed to encourage students to consider federal careers and ultimately reinvigorate the nation’s government service.

I’ve come to realize that GW students are great talkers in the classroom. Now it’s time to act. From diplomats to teachers, from federal workers to our armed services, our generation, like our grandparents in the midst of a great depression and a world war, has been called to serve.

It’s time we answer.

The writer, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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